"I know what you're thinking, punk. 'Did he fire six shots or only five?' Well, to tell you the truth, I've forgotten myself in all this excitement. But being as this is a .44 Magnum, the most powerful handgun in the world, and would blow your head clean off, you've got to ask yourself a question: Do I feel lucky? Well, do ya, punk?"And remember, compared to other guns, Revolvers Are Just Better. Back to Cool Guns
— Detective Harry Callahan, Dirty Harry
open/close all folders
One of Colt's most popular revolvers, along with the Single Action Army. Chambered for the powerful .357 Magnum round, this gun was still hand-fitted and assembled up until it was discontinued by Colt, instead of by machine, making them very expensive to produce compared to equivalent Smith & Wesson or Ruger revolvers. The Python can be distinguished by the "rib" on top of the barrel (which, unlike a ventilation rib on a shotgun barrel, actually serves no purpose). In addition, the cylinder rotation (clockwise) and barrel rifling (counter-clockwise) are the opposite of every other major revolver maker; the latter is a big red flag to ballistics labs. Colt also released several other "snake" guns (King Cobra, Diamondback, Anaconda), but these were production weapons and did not enjoy the same degree of hand-fitting that the Python did. (Though still with more hand-fitting than most competing revolvers.) Notable also is its rich, "Royal Blue" finish. Which is appropriate given how popular they were with royalty, having been collected by King Juan Carlos of Spain, just about every Middle Eastern monarchnote , and the King of Rock & Roll. The Python was a popular gun although expensive even in its time; Colt manufactured the less labor intensive Trooper series in the same caliber as a lower cost alternative to the Python.
Colt Single Action Army
The Single Action Army, also known as the Peacemaker or Equalizer, is Colt's original .45 revolver (though in civilian use, the .44-40 version, known as the "Frontier Six-Shooter", was more popular since it allowed a cowboy to have a revolver and a Winchester lever-action rifle that fired the same ammo). Developed in 1873, the Single Action Army eventually became the standard amongst gun-toting citizens of The Wild West for its reliability and high performance. Even after the West ceased to be "wild", the SAA remained popular and Colt continued to produce them up until the outbreak of World War II focused all of their attention on military contracts, and resumed in 1956 because the growing popularity of Westerns resulted in significant new demand. As its name suggests, this gun is a single action, which meant the hammer had to be pulled back after every shot. Also, it had a "fixed" frame, with the cylinder chambers accessible only via a thumb-operated loading gate — the weapon could only be loaded and unloaded a single round at a time. Typically in real life it would only be loaded with five rounds ("load one, skip one, load four", as single-action shooters put it) since the SAA had an unfortunate tendency for the hammer to drop when it was carried cocked (some modern reproductions fix this flaw; the most faithful ones intentionally do not, nor do the current-production Colts); this is usually not shown in fictional depictions. Known among shooters for its "four-click" cocking, with the clicks being said to spell out "C-O-L-T". The SAA is made primarily in three barrel lengths: 7.5 inch (the original cavalry-issue length and also popular with civilians for target shooting), 5.5 inch (originally issued to artillery troops, with most cavalry-issue pistols eventually converted to this length) and 4.75 inch (exclusively for civilian sales, and popular among many gunfighters because it allowed a quicker draw since a shorter barrel clears the holster faster). In 1894, the famous "Bisley" variant, with a slightly bent-forward grip and a slightly bent-down hammer spur, was introduced for target shooting at the Bisley, England firing range...but most of them were actually bought for self-defense, as the modifications allowed for quicker shooting as well as easier aiming.
So along came The Western, and it was good. Suddenly there was a spike in demand for "cowboy" style single-action revolvers in the style of the Colt SAA. There was one minor problem; Colt wasn't making them at that point (having switched over to law enforcement and defense), and neither was anyone else. Along came Bill Ruger, maker of .22LR target pistols and all-purpose gun genius (along with being regarded as The Quisling by the American firearms community). Having tested the waters with the .22 "Single Six" model, he then offered what was essentially a modernized SAA. Simplifying the lockwork, and using modern coil springs as opposed to Colt-style flat leaf springs, the Blackhawk was strong enough to support the mighty .357 and .44 Magnum calibers, and its success caused Colt to start offering the SAA again. A lawsuit involving a negligent discharge (with a stolen gun; although the jury wasn't informed of that fact), led to the "transfer bar," making the Blackhawk the first single action revolver that could be safely carried with all six cylinders loaded (and ugly "billboard" warning labeling on all Ruger weapons from that point forward; as a result "pre-warning" Rugers command a slight premium from collectors). The .44 Magnum variant was actually offered before the Smith & Wesson Model 29 (allegedly Ruger got their hands on some spent casings from S&W's testing of the Model 29 and were able to rush the .44 Magnum version to market as a result), and many argue that the single action "spin" grip makes a better platform for the cartridge.
S&W Model 3 "Schofield"
The Pepsi to the Colt SAA's Coke, the Schofield was one of the first "top-break" revolvers (allowing the entire cylinder to be loaded in a short amount of time, at the cost of structural integrity); rolled out in 1870 for the US Army. Due to the fact that its unique .45 cartridge (shorter than the .45 Colt), despite being specifically told by the Army to chamber it in .45 Colt, could be loaded in the Colt and not vice versa, large numbers of Schofields were pulled from military service and sold on the civilian market. Since it was faster to load and less expensive than the Colt (some things never change), it was very popular with cops and robbers alike in the Wild West. Often underrepresented in period Westerns, due to the iconic status of the Colt. Related models like the Model 3 "Russian" (so named because it was bought in large numbers by the Tsar's army; its .44 Russian cartridge was the basis of the .44 Special, which in turn was the basis of the legendary .44 Magnum) were also popular. And built in much larger numbers by S&W because they didn't have to pay any royalties to Major Schofield for the other Model 3 subtypes.
S&W Model 10 "Military & Police"
A .38 Specialnote revolver produced by Smith & Wesson, and an early example of the "swing-out" cylinder used in virtually all modern double-action revolvers. For most of the 20th Century, this weapon, along with Colt's revolvers (its main rival), was practically synonymous with "police gun," replacing older .32 caliber revolvers and reigning supreme until the rise of the double-stack auto. If you see a police officer with a revolver in pretty much any media, it will be this one. Some police departments still use them today, and even the military has used them from time to time to arm sentries, as opposed to a heavier automatic. Smith & Wesson later standardized the M&P frame as the "K" frame, building blued and stainless steel .38 Special and .357 Magnum revolvers on it. During World War II, it was widely used by the British and US militaries (mainly for real-line duty, but also for pilots, aircrew and sailors), and dubbed the "Victory Model". Victory Model revolvers can be easily identified by the "V" prefix on the serial number and a frame marked "UNITED STATES PROPERTY", "U.S. PROPERTY" or "U.S. NAVY".note
Colt Police Revolvers
The Rival to the Smith & Wesson Model 10. Colt manufactured three revolvers with the branding "Police" during the 20th century: the Police Positive (1907-'47), the Official Police (1927-'69), and the most widely-produced version, the Police Positive Special (1908-'95). There was also the Colt Detective Special (1927-'86 and 1993-'95), a snub-nosednote variant of the Police Positive Special which was popular among plain-clothes detectives, undercover cops and railway clerks. Colt revolvers were dominant among police officers until Smith & Wesson took the lead in The Sixties; much like the Smith & Wesson, "Colt revolver" was shorthand for "police gun" for much of the 20th century. Well over a million were made. During World War II, a variant of the Official Police, the Colt Commando, was used to arm military police, spies, security guards at defense plants and shipyards, and crews on merchant ships, but was made in much smaller numbers than the comparable S&W Victory Model.
Cap & ball revolver used by the Confederate side during the American Civil War. Its claim to Rule of Cool status comes from the fact that the nine-shot cylinder revolves around a secondary barrel which fires a 16-gauge buckshot round. It was significantly bulkier than other revolvers of the period, and significantly more expensive, so even in its time it was rare. But those cavalrymen who could afford one loved them, since the added weight's no big deal when your horse is the one carrying it. Expect a scene where the Gun Goes Click, only for the user to fire the second barrel at the surprised antagonist. Modern reproductions are available from the Pietta company of Brescia, Italy.
S&W Model 29
The Dirty Harry gun. The iconic speech Clint Eastwood gives in that film on the benefits of heads, and the blowing clean off thereof, cemented this revolver and its .44 Magnum round as the Memetic Badass of the gun world note and started the action movie arms race that ended with such ridiculous Hand Cannons as Charles Bronson's .475 Wildey Magnum in Death Wish 3. Large-bore revolvers are still the first choice in the field of personal artillery (since the modern choice is typically a Smith & Wesson Model 500), one major legacy is that almost every revolver in a videogame will also be a Magnum. The Model 29 was built on the same frame as the .357 Model 27 "Registered Magnum"; this would later be standardized as the "N" frame. Notably, the actual revolver used in the film is exhibit 86 at the National Firearms Museum in Fairfax, VA.
The Webley top-break self-extracting revolver. Used by British, British Empire and Commonwealth forces between 1887 and 1963 as well as civilians to this day. No, that's not a joke: in various marks, this gun was used from the Colonial wars of the Empire to manning guard posts on the Berlin Wall, with only minor modifications in form. Fired the infamous .455 Webley round, one of the most powerful ever used in top-break revolvers, for when .45 S&W just would not cut it early in its reign. However, many later models used the .38/200 as, after World War I, the British army decided that there WAS indeed such a thing as overkill and that the .38/200 worked well, although many solders at the time felt that the weapon had been nerfed. One of the most widely circulated and reliable revolvers of all time, and its iconic shape and long use means it will be found in pretty much any film, game or series involving British or Commonwealth troops from the Victorian period onwards. The most recent version, still in production today, is a version made in India for civilian sales; it's essentially a shrunk-down version of the .38 caliber version, chambered in the near-obsolete .32 S&W Long (as India's gun laws place severe restrictions on the calibers of guns that civilians can own).
A double action, five-shot revolver capable of shooting either .45 Long Colt or .410 bore shotgun shells. The name actually started as a Fan Nickname, after several circuit judges in Miami started carrying the pistol for self-defense. Although popular, it tends to get the same negative rap as the Desert Eagle (bought by people who know nothing about guns) due to its inaccuracy (the cylinders are too long for the .45 cartridge, and the rifling inhibits shot patterning...though it's sufficiently accurate for the very-close-range self-defense that it's designed for), the usual misconception that one doesn't have to "aim" anything firing shotshells, and the low performance of .410 hunting rounds in a self-defense setting. There's an increasing number of .410 shells designed specifically for self-defense use in the Judge and some of them are pretty effective, but there are plenty of handguns that work at least as well and aren't as bulky. There's also the "Raging Judge Magnum", which is based on the Taurus Raging Bull frame and adds the heavy-hitting .454 Casull (it's to .45 Colt what .357 Magnum is to .38 Special) to the list of cartridges it can chamber. Ordinary Judge revolvers have cylinders designed specifically to keep some idiot from sticking .454 Casull in them (the chambers are long enough that otherwise this would've been possible), because they're nowhere near strong enough to handle the higher-pressure round. The most recent iteration is the Circuit Judge revolving rifle, which is exactly what it sounds like: a Judge frame with a stock and a much longer barrel. No word on whether a "Circuit Judge Magnum" with .454 Casull capability will be made.
Nagant M 1895
A seven-shot, gas-seal revolver designed and produced by Belgian industrialist Léon Nagant for the Russian Empire, it acquired fame and glory in the wars of the Empire and the Soviet Union afterwards. Nearly unique for a Victorian Age revolver for the vast majority were double-action (the few single-action models were converted afterwards), it used specially designed fully-enclosed cartridges, sealed itself against the barrel and could make good use of a sound suppressor. So ubiquitous that during the Russian Civil War and the 1920s, in Russian language nagan was the colloquial word for "pistol". People said it was so reliable that it could be dropped in the mud, bashed on concrete, rusted to the core, chewed by a furious bear and it would still fire unscathed. Its reliability is especially impressive given that the Nagant has significantly more complex internally than it needed to be. It was replaced as a general issue weapon by the TT automatic pistol in the 1930's, although it was still a common weapon for paramilitary forces such as the NKVD. Some of them are still in use for security purposes in modern Russia, usually 2 to 4 times older than men who carry them. Today, surplus Nagants are among the most inexpensive handguns that can be bought in the United States, but the same cannot be said of their unique ammunition. Also, due to its design the Nagant M1895 was the only revolver which could use a sound suppressor effectively(anyone who knows about revolvers designs knows that due to a gap between the front end of the cylinder and the rear end of the barrel, normally a revolver is unaffected by a sound suppressor, more detailed information on The Other Wiki). The NKVD and KGB noticed this, and since the action of a revolver is quieter than a semi-automatic, this made it well-suited to assassination. The M1895 was actually the last in a long line of Léon Nagant's revolver designs, with the earlier models lacking the gas-seal mechanism having been adopted by the armies of Belgium, Norway, Sweden, Serbia, Brazil, Poland and Greece.
Charter Arms Bulldog
A snub-nosed, five-round revolver available in .357 Magnum and .44 Special (a downgraded version of .44 Magnum with less recoil). It was extraordinary popular in The Seventies and The Eighties, with more than half a million units sold in less than twenty years, due to its light trigger pull, its surprisingly high accuracy and power for such a small gun, and its size making it excellent for concealed carry (or a cop's backup gun). Notoriously, it was the Weapon of Choice for the "Son of Sam" Serial Killer, earning him the media nickname "The .44 Caliber Killer".
S&W Model 500
The hand cannon of hand cannons, the Model 500 is a double-action, five-round revolver firing the largest caliber production revolver cartridge available for public sale today. Designed as a serious handgun hunter's weapon, the .500 S&W Magnum round the revolver fires can take down even large African game such as cape buffalo, rhino and elephant. When Smith & Wesson created the .500 S&W Magnum, they had no weapon that could handle the muzzle energy and pressure generated by the round, so they built a whole new gun around their largest revolver frame, the X Frame. Later, the Model 460 variant was introduced, chambering the also-new .460 S&W Magnum (an even more powerful version of the already very powerful .454 Casull), which is the highest-velocity production handgun cartridge. After it debuted, it generated a fair amount of controversy in a number of state and national governments over the possibility of criminals utilizing a handgun with this much firepower. Said controversy quickly died down when legislators realized nobody in their right mind would use this thing in a shootout, the price of the weapon and its ammunition further adding to its impracticality. Firing the weapon requires a fair amount of body strength and training, as an untrained or unfit shooter could find the recoil sending the gun into their face or the expelled gasses giving them severe burns. Thusly, the weapon is largely restricted to fit, wealthy people who want an expensive, high caliber shooting range gun or big-game handgun hunters. That said, this has not stopped writers of fiction from giving their heroes and villains from all walks of life this massively overpowered weapon. It may well be on the way to being the next Model 29 or Colt Python, the iconic weapon the hero uses when they really want to kill someone/thing dead.
Colt 1851 Navy Revolver
The Colt 1851 Navy was a percussion cap (also known as cap 'n ball) revolver created by, as the name implies, legendary gunsmith Samuel Colt. The full name is "Colt Belt Pistol of Naval Calibernote ", but of course who has time for that? To that end, the revolver was frequently called the "Navy Revolver" and later by collectors as the "Colt 1851 Navy". The pistol was an evolution of percussion pocket pistols, such as the popular Baby Dragoon and designed to be a lighter alternative to the .44 Walker Colt. The term "belt pistol" is in fact a marketing reference to its smaller size, since it basically means "you can holster this on a belt", since the Walker Colt was so friggin' big it often had to be carried in a saddle holster. The "Navy" part? In addition to the caliber, Samuel Colt was so appreciative of the Texas Navy for purchasing an earlier model of pistol he manufactured that he named it after them and included a scene of a famous Texas Navy battle on the cylinder of every gun. Thanks in large part to an aggressive marketing campaign and the pistol's more manageable size compared to the .44 Walker Colt, the 1851 Navy became one of the most popular handguns of the period, with total production numbers exceeded only by the Colt Pocket pistol, becoming one of Colt's earliest mass-market successes. The design would also be adapted to the U.S. Army standard .44 revolver round as the 1860 Army model, and this was in turn adapted to an improved .36 caliber model, the 1861 Navy. The 1851 Navy saw service on both sides of the American Civil War (despite the name, the US Army and Confederate Army both used Colt Navy revolvers too, and the US Navy also issued Colt Army revolvers) and service across Europe, Asia and Africa. Canada, Britain, Tsarist Russia and Austria-Hungary all used Navy Revolvers, with several thousand Navy Revolvers produced in London. The pistol also became popular during the early years of The Wild West and the famous users is practically a Who's Who of frontier celebrities. Among the most famous users of Navy Revolvers included Wild Bill Hickok, Robert E. Lee, Ned Kelly, John Henry "Doc" Holliday and Sir Richard Francis Burton. The Navy Revolver was produced from 1851 to 1873, in several versions with production ending in the wake of metallic cartridge pistols such as the above mentioned (and today, more famous) Colt Single Action Army, though later Navy Revolvers were modified to accept metallic cartridges. Modern reproductions are offered by such companies as Uberti for Civil War reenactments, Wild West aficionados and period films, many of which are also modified to accept metallic cartridges. Many of the modern reproductions have brass frames, which had been a cost-saving measure in the Confederate-made copies during the Civil War and is now popular both because it replicates the much rarer Confederate model and also because it looks cool.